By Chad Ingram
Published Oct. 20 2016
Vibrant fall foliage brought carloads of visitors to the Dorset tower during the Thanksgiving weekend those carloads of people causing traffic jams along Highway 35 that residents reported on social media lasted up to half an hour in some cases.
While she said she was working with anecdotal information from what she understood “it was absolute chaos” Algonquin Highlands Reeve Carol Moffatt told the paper. “There’s just too many people and not enough space.”
Moffatt said Algonquin Highlands council would be having conversations on how to address the issue including the possibility of hiring OPP officers to help deal with traffic.
While Highway 35 is a provincial asset the situation would require paid duty police officers hired by the township.
While the municipality has taken steps to try to mitigate congestion – moving the tower’s gatehouse reconfiguring the parking lot etc. – it doesn’t have any more space to work with.
“We don’t own any more land onto which to put people” Moffatt said. “Given the problems this year I do want to reach out into the community of Dorset. How do we do this better?”
Moffatt said if any residents had photos of the traffic the township would be happy to see them in order to better strategize.
The township has also been working with the Ministry of Transportation and the MNRF which manages provincial parks on solutions to traffic congestion issues at the entrance to Algonquin Park.
As reported in the Times earlier this year long traffic jams along Highway 60 have resulted in park visitors urinating on the properties of residents of Oxtongue Lake as well as collisions some fatal. The congestion then causes delays for Algonquin Highlands Fire Services as well as OPP and EMS crews in getting to the scenes of those collisions.
As a result of conversations with the ministries Moffatt said short-term and long-term plans have been identified including a traffic analysis of the park’s west gate the addition of more washrooms and the widening of the highway.
“I consider it a bit of a democratic win” Moffatt said. “It’s a starting point.”
As for the tower in Dorset council will be discussing potential remedies before next autumn’s foliage display. “We’re now faced with finding resolution for our own success” Moffatt said of the tower’s popularity. “That speaks to what Haliburton County is inevitably facing. What if you throw a party and no one comes? What if you throw a party and everyone comes and brings their brother?”